Kodi on Raspberry Pi: Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Media Center!

Kodi on Raspberry Pi: Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Media Center!
Turn your Raspberry Pi into a media center with Kodi and LibreELEC.
Zach Zach (217)
Total time: 20 minutes 

What's better than media center software that's fully-featured with a beautifully designed user interface? Free and open-source media center software that's fully-featured with a beautifully designed user interface. Kodi is all that, plus you can set it up to run on your Raspberry Pi in 20 minutes or less. This guide will walk you through the installation and setup process, step by step.

pi
Interest mentioned here
The Raspberry Pi is a small, inexpensive computer developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the United Kingdom.

What is Kodi?

Formerly known as XBMC, Kodi is a free and open-source media center that runs on a variety of platforms, including the Raspberry Pi. Simply connect your Pi to your TV or monitor and enjoy your full library of movies, TV shows, music, and more!

What you need for Raspberry Pi Kodi setup
Ignore the giant power button embedded in the case (more on that later) :)

A full list of what you'll need can be found in the parts list for this guide, but I'll detail them below. At a minimum, you'll need:

Raspberry Pi computer

Kodi will run on any Raspberry Pi model, but for performance reasons, I recommend running it on the Raspberry Pi 3B+ or Raspberry Pi 4. This guide covers installation on any Raspberry Pi model, but I'll be using the Raspberry Pi 4.

The Raspberry Pi 3, 4, and Zero W are the only ones with built-in Wi-Fi; if you use an older model, you'll need to add a USB adapter in order to use internet-enabled Kodi features.

Raspberry Pi case

I highly recommend the Raspberry Pi 4 Flirc case since it provides excellent passive cooling and does away with the need for a cooling fan. There's also a version for the Raspberry Pi 3, and even a Kodi Edition Flirc case! The Kodi Edition looks different but is functionally equivalent.

Don't mind the giant red power button in the case—I added this myself.

Power supply

For the Raspberry Pi 4, you'll need a 3A+ USB-C AC adapter. This is the one I'm using, from CanaKit. For all other models, you'll need a 2A+ micro-USB power supply.

Micro SD card

The micro SD card is the "hard drive" of the Raspberry Pi. If you plan on storing a lot of media files locally, I recommend grabbing a 32GB or 64GB card. Cards larger than 64GB are not officially supported and might not work.

HDMI cable

Of course, you'll need a high-quality HDMI cable such as this one to connect the Raspberry Pi to your television or monitor.

Micro HDMI adapter (Pi 4 only)

The Raspberry Pi 4 features two micro HDMI ports instead of a single full-size HDMI port. If you're using the Raspberry Pi 4, you'll need a micro HDMI adapter.

Keyboard (recommended)

After installing LibreELEC, you'll need to type things during the setup process. The easiest way to do this is to connect a Bluetooth or USB keyboard. If you plan on picking up a physical remote to control Kodi, I recommend grabbing one that features a full keyboard! See below for my recommendation.

A physical remote (recommended)

Again, this is optional, but I recommend picking up a combination keyboard/mouse remote to control your Raspberry Pi. I recommend this little guy—it's rechargeable, only about $17, and adds full keyboard and touchpad functionality to your Pi. If you don't want to buy a remote, you can always control Kodi using an iOS or Android app (more on that later).

Installing LibreELEC through Raspberry Pi Imager

There are several methods for installing Kodi—manually, using NOOBs, OSMC, or using LibreELEC OS. The LibreELEC (pronounced Libra-ELEC) method is the simplest and is easily installed using any operating system—Mac, Windows, or Linux. If you're using RetroPie, you can also install Kodi directly through RetroPie!

What is LibreELEC?

LibreELEC is a free Linux-based operating system that's optimized to run Kodi. It's a fork of the open-source OpenELEC Linux distribution. LibreELEC is "just enough operating system" for Kodi, meaning that anything unrelated to Kodi has been stripped away, leaving a lean, mean, optimized version of Kodi.

We're going to install LibreELEC using the official Raspberry Pi Imager.

Writing with Raspberry Pi Imager

We'll need to install, or "Flash" the image onto your Raspberry Pi's micro SD card.

To do this, download and install Raspberry Pi Imager for your computer's operating system: Windows, macOS, or Ubuntu. This app is free and made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation!

Insert the micro SD card into your computer using a USB or full-sized SD card adapter.

Then, launch the Raspberry Pi Imager app and click CHOOSE OS. Select LibreELEC, and then select the appropriate version for your Raspberry Pi model. I'm using the Raspberry Pi 4, so I selected LibreELEC (Pi 4).

Next, click CHOOSE SD CARD and select your SD card.

Finally, click WRITE. This might take a while to run, depending on your Internet speed, since it needs to download LibreELEC in the background before writing it to the SD card.

Before continuing, put your Raspberry Pi into its case.

When the SD card image is finished being written, Raspberry Pi Imager should automatically eject the micro SD card. If it didn't, safely eject it and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.

Next, connect your Pi to a TV or monitor using an HDMI cable and, if you're using the Raspberry Pi 4, a micro HDMI adapter.

Finally, connect your power supply. Your Pi will now boot!

Troubleshooting: No video signal

After connecting my Raspberry Pi 4 to an older TV, the screen displayed NO SIGNAL after a few seconds. I fixed this by putting the SD card back into my computer, opening SD_CARD/boot/config.txt, and adding the following lines to the end:

hdmi_force_hotplug=1
hdmi_ignore_edid=0xa5000080

Please don't ask how long it took for me to figure this out. ¯\(ツ)

Use your keyboard or remote to complete the on-screen setup process. I'll walk you through each step.

Language

Select your language (yep).

Set a hostname

This is the name you'll use to connect to your Pi, as well as to discover and transfer files over your network. It defaults to LibreELEC, but you can change this if you want. I recommend doing so if you might have multiple LibreELEC/Kodi instances on the same network in the future.

Since this particular Kodi setup is going into my motorhome, I'm going to use its given name: vanessa. (Get it? It's a van-based RV. I'm sorry.)

Networking

Connect your Raspberry Pi to your wireless network. This is optional but recommended since this is how you'll access certain online services, allow LibreELEC to automatically update itself, transfer media files, and more.

Select your Wi-Fi network and enter your network credentials. Note: The Raspberry Pi Zero W doesn't support 5Ghz networks, so you'll need to use a 2.4GHz network if you're using the Zero W.

Sharing and Remote Access

On this step, I recommend enabling SSH so you can connect to your Raspberry Pi remotely, as well as enabling Samba share so you can easily transfer files from Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows). You'll be asked to enter an SSH password. Be sure to choose something secure.

That's it for the main setup!

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Kodi does a ton. It's not possible to go through every feature here, so I'll just highlight a few things to get you started.

Media files

You can upload music, movies, TV shows, and photos by transferring them over your network via Samba. Kodi supports multiple file formats.

To add media files, visit your network share (Finder > Network on Mac). You'll see your Kodi machine's hostname. Click it and observe a nice list of directories:

Backup
Configfiles
Downloads
Emulators
Logfiles
Music
Picons
Pictures
Recordings
Screenshots
TV Shows
Update
Userdata
Videos

Drag and drop your media files into the appropriate directory. After they've transferred, they'll immediately appear in your Kodi library.

Add-ons

Add-ons are the core part of Kodi and where it really shines. You can download and install a variety of applications to get access to movies, TV shows, games, and more. I'll let you explore this area on your own. ;)

Remote control using your smart phone

Fortunately, if you’re using iOS or Android, you can control Kodi from your phone. While many Jodi remotes are available for your iPhone or Android device, the free apps below are the official Kodi apps maintained by the Kodi development community. Thus, they will work best.

iOS Kodi Remote

For iOS, download to app Official Kodi Remote.

Android Kodi Remote

For Android, download the app Kore, Official Remote for Kodi.

Alternatively, you can use a USB keyboard to control Kodi. For this option, you’ll need to refer to the wiki on Kodi keyboard shortcuts.